In college football's weekend, escape artists are featured performers

In college football's weekend, escape artists are featured performers
Quarterbacks Brandon Harris (6) of Louisiana State and Matty Mauk of Missouri picked up big wins in different ways on Saturday. Harris led LSU to an expected rout while Mauk guided Missouri to an upset win at South Carolina. (Gerard Hebert / AP, Todd Bennett / Getty Images)

It was difficult penning this weekend wrap-up column without sneaking a glance toward next weekend.

After a tip jar stuffed with payday games like Louisiana State versus New Mexico State, LSU vs. Sam Houston State and LSU vs. Louisiana Monroe, college football finally hits pigskin pay dirt.


The Southeastern Conference Western Division, swirling in its own syrup after having six teams ranked in the top 15 of Sunday's Associated Press poll, has to actually start playing itself.

The Pac-12 Conference also faces its heavy share of internal combustion.

While it was nice LSU could vent last week's Mississippi State loss by beating up on poor, disenchanted New Mexico State, 63-7, what did it prove?

Wait … LSU moved up two spots, to 15, in the AP poll?

That's about as crazy as Missouri cracking the top 25 one week after losing at home to Indiana, which lost Saturday to Maryland.

Wait … Missouri moved to No. 24 in the AP?

Next weekend's shake-and-bake-off starts with Arizona at Oregon on Thursday night and dovetails nicely into Saturday's extraordinary cavalcade.

But we invoked a "no peeking" rule until the past weekend was sorted and filed.

You'll have to wait to hear more about Texas A&M at Mississippi State, Alabama at Mississippi, Nebraska at Michigan State, Stanford at Notre Dame, Oklahoma at Texas Christian, LSU at Auburn, Utah at UCLA and Arizona State at USC.

All this choice schedule meat will be served with a side dish of Hawaii over Rice.

First, let's recap this past weekend's action, which involved a lot of escape clauses.

• Top-ranked Florida State had to rally from 24-7 down to avoid a huge upset at North Carolina State, the last team to beat the Seminoles before they started their present 20-game winning streak.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston returned from his one-game Clemson suspension and, after a shaky start, played a great game without offending any gender, race or creed.

Isn't it nice when good things happen to good people?


• Texas A&M rallied to beat Arkansas in overtime The big news was it prevented Arkansas from joining six other SEC West teams in Sunday's top 25. That would have allowed the SEC to brag about having the best division since General Patton's.

Texas A&M really was lucky to escape an Arkansas program rising under second-year Coach Bret Bielema. Never mind Saturday's defeat was Arkansas' 14th consecutive SEC defeat since a win over Kentucky on Oct. 13, 2012.

Arkansas alligator-wrestled the "SEC worst" banner from Kentucky, which snapped its 17-game conference losing streak with a 17-7 win over Vanderbilt.

• California, a week after blowing a huge lead at Arizona, was determined not to squander a seven-point home lead over Colorado with 2 minutes 29 seconds left in Berkeley.

But, of course, Colorado scored in the waning seconds to tie the score at 49-all. This time, however, Cal recovered to prevail in double overtime.

It had to cap the screwiest two weekends at Cal since the late 1960s.

The Bears allowed 36 fourth-quarter points in Sept. 20's loss at Arizona and handed 21 first-quarter points to Colorado. That has to be some sort of record for a team that got out of the mess with a 1-1 record.

"I think I aged 100 years in the last two weeks," Cal Coach Sonny Dykes said.

• Other close calls included Georgia's edging unranked Tennessee by three, Washington State's getting out of Utah by one and Wisconsin's sleepwalking past South Florida.

The greatest escape, though, was Kansas' extricating itself from Charlie Weis. The school called "no mas" after Saturday's shutout loss to Texas.

Weis was 6-22 at Kansas.

A self-described play-calling genius for Tom Brady's New England Patriots, Weis was hired with considerable fanfare at Notre Dame, where he announced his football acumen would give his teams a "decided schematic advantage" over the competition.

Weis exits as a head coach, probably for good, pocketing an an estimated $50-million plus for going 41-49 in South Bend and Lawrence.

Weis' greatest "victory" as a coach remains the 2005 "Bush Push" loss to USC, which earned him, conservatively speaking, the most outrageous contract extension in the history of mankind.

Pointing to Weis may be Brady Hoke's best argument for remaining the head coach at Michigan, which fell to 2-3 after Saturday's home loss to Minnesota.

Hoke can say, compared to Weis, he's a bargain-basement discount. At a fraction of Weis' salary, Hoke actually has transformed two programs — Ball State and San Diego State. Hoke's overall record is even over .500 at 75-66.

He can also argue, technically, with Michigan at only 0-1 in the Big Ten race, the season is not over.

"I think this team can still win the championship, I really do," Hoke said.

Michigan fans would respond: "Well, you're the only one."

• Only 17 undefeated teams remain, including two of the four independent schools (Notre Dame and Brigham Young).

If the other playoff doesn't work out, how about a mini-pod called the Independent Final Four?

As it stands now, top-seeded Notre Dame would play No. 4 Army in one semifinal, with No. 2 BYU against No. 3 Navy in the other.

It can't be any worse a money-loser than hiring Charlie Weis.